Spurs head into a crucial Premier League weekend seven points off Leicester with six games to play. If the Foxes win four more games — and they have deeply winnable fixtures against Sunderland, Swansea and Everton ahead — they win the title no matter how Spurs finish.
The fat lady isn’t singing yet, but she’s in her dressing room and she’s warming up.
Looking the other way, we are nine points ahead of Manchester United in fifth, and we play them on Sunday. They also have a game in hand — if they win both, well….gulp. And then there is the small matter of finishing above Arsenal. There is an awful lot still to play for and no excuse for Spurs to ease off, even if Leicester march on relentlessly.
But forget glory, local pride and enjoyment — we all know what really matters in modern football is money. And where we finish this season will make an enormous difference to the bottom line.
How big a difference? I’ve done some quick and dirty calculations to show how much Spurs can expect to bring in, depending on final league position.
Here’s how it works:
Premier League payments
For the Premier League, 50 percent of the TV money is split equally among teams. After that, 25 percent is paid out in “facility fees” — payments every time a team is picked for a televised UK game. The other 25 percent is the “merit payment”, which is paid out depending on where you finish.
Last season, Spurs were shown 18 times on TV, earning £14.8 million. This time, Spurs will be shown 21 times. Essentially, each game broadcast live above the minimum 10 (everyone gets paid for 10 games, even if some teams, like Leicester last season, aren’t shown that many times) earns a team an additional £747,176. So for Spurs, we will be bringing in an extra £2.24 million regardless of where we end up.
The merit payments are very simple: They increase by £1.25 million (or as close as) per place. First place receives £24.9 million, last place gets £1.25 million.
For UEFA funds, the principle is similar, but it is harder to project. It is often assumed that teams qualifying for the Champions League receive the same share of the TV money (before being paid for how they progress). This is NOT true — it varies, and quite considerably.
Champions League money is divided into two pots — the “market pool” and the prize money. The prize money can be seen here: quite simply you get a guaranteed EUR 12 million (£9.66 million) for reaching the group stages, and then the money rolls in depending on how you do.
The market pool is the share of the TV money that is awarded to clubs from different associations, depending on how much their TV deal brings in. This is divided into two equal pots, the first of which is awarded based on Premier League position, and the second based on how far the clubs progress in the Champions League itself.
Per football finance blogger Swiss Ramble, these two pots were each worth EUR 46.8 million (£37.85 million) in the 2014/15 campaign. For the first pot, the team that finished first in the Premier League receives 40 percent, the team that was second receives 30 percent, and so on.
With the huge new BT Sport deal kicking in, the share of the market pool that goes to British clubs is going to get a lot bigger from the 2015/16 season. How much? A reasonable estimate is that the TV money will jump by around 50 percent.
With the actual amount not yet known, for the purposes of this article I’ll use a 50 percent increase — at the very least, it makes the maths straightforward.
And now, some tables
In the table below, you can see how that revenue breaks down. As you can see, the difference between finishing 1st and 4th could be almost £17 million — for the initial market pool share alone. On top of this, you have the other half of the TV money to dish out depending on how well you do against Messi & Co.
By way of reference, Spurs brought in £4.73 million from our Europa League campaign last season, including both TV money and bonuses. The season before, when we reached the last 16, it was £5.27 million. It is very hard to project the market pool share, particularly as not every English team that qualifies wants to reach the group stage. Let’s take last season’s amount as the “baseline” amount, with anything that comes in on top of that considered a performance-related bonus.
So, including Premier League merit payments, UEFA market pool payments and minimum bonus payments, what sort of money are we talking about for Spurs this season? I’m talking purely the performance-related elements of the TV money — the part that varies depending on how well, or badly, we finish the season.
As you can see, we are talking about a difference of £7 million per place for the top four positions.
If the music stopped now, and Spurs finished in 2nd, we’d be on course for £25 million* more in performance-related payments than we earned last season for our fifth place finish.
That’s a lot of money for a club with total revenues of £196 million. By way of comparison, per our latest set of financials, we receive about £16 million per year from our new sponsorship deal with AIA. And that’s before any UEFA bonus money, extra gate receipts and shirt sales.
If we contrived to swap places with Arsenal — and let’s be honest, we have form in this department — that would cost us £7 million in performance-related cash. And possibly a bit more in therapy costs.
Of course, we want to finish above Leicester because we want to be champions for the first time since 1961, not because it means a bigger slice of the UEFA market pool. We want to finish above Arsenal, because it’s about f**king time we did.
But when the pundits call this “the business end of the season”, this is why.
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*Update 17.15, April 8: An old version of this article stated that the difference between 2nd and 5th place amounted to about £15 million. In fact it is closer to £25 million.